- Associated Press - Monday, July 6, 2015

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - Federal agents are worried about outlaw motorcycle gangs they say are actively trying to recruit former military members in the Pikes Peak region.

“It always concerns us when people with specialized training in weapons and explosives is involved in a criminal enterprise,” said Chris Amon, the Denver spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

An ATF report released in May detailed the efforts of the outlaw motorcycle clubs to add troops to their ranks, the Gazette of Colorado Springs reported (https://bit.ly/1LSrMYJ). That includes accelerating in recruitment in the Pikes Peak region, home to 40,000 active-duty troops.

The report says that the gangs “court active-duty military personnel and government workers, both civilians and contractors, for their knowledge, reliable income, tactical skills and dedication to a cause.”

The ATF has been documenting biker gang members who are federal employees, active-duty military, reservists and National Guardsmen since 2007, according to the report.

“I think it makes a natural draw for them,” said Steve Cook, who heads the Midwest Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association.

“You have to look at people in the military and fresh back from deployment - they are into a warfare mentality.”

Local authorities are aware that some motorcycle gangs in the area cater to the military, said Colorado Springs Police Lt. Mark Comte.

One group that concerns law enforcement agencies is the Sin Deciples.

In 2012, Virgil Means was shot and killed outside the group’s Colorado Springs clubhouse. An Army soldier was convicted of manslaughter for his death and two other men charged in the case were active-duty Fort Carson soldiers.

And last year, the Deciples were involved in a brawl with another motorcycle group in Aurora and a member of that group was shot and injured.

Authorities said Fort Carson Sgt. 1st Class Larry Morrison was arrested and charged in the shooting, but the case was dropped after witnesses refused to testify.

Now battling an Army discharge, Morrison claims he was never affiliated with the Deciples.

Cook says he’s not surprised that some troops find the life of outlaw motorcycle gangs alluring.

“The groups themselves have a lot of the structure similar to what the military has,” he said. “They have foot soldiers and the chain of command. It’s easy for guys to segue from one to the other.”

Despite the biker groups’ amped-up recruitment efforts, the number of crimes committed by military members has plummeted.

The number of active-duty troops booked at the El Paso County jail was 937 in 2011 but fell to 534 in 2014, according to data from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

Still, local military leaders aren’t happy with the information from the ATF report.

“The Army has a longstanding policy regarding soldiers’ participation in criminal organizations and extremist activities,” Fort Carson Spokeswoman Dee McNutt told the Gazette.

“Every commander has the inherent responsibility to enforce this policy and take appropriate action - to include education and awareness training.”

She said leaders want to keep troops out of outlaw clubs like the Deciples and away from groups with extremist views, like the local Infidels chapter that held an anti-Muslim barbecue.

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Information from: The Gazette, https://www.gazette.com


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